Eerie Lafayette: The story of the Tippecanoe County triple execution

At the Tippecanoe County Historical Association amidst county court records and census forms, there is a box many don't dare look into.

Posted: Oct. 30, 2017 10:46 AM
Updated: Oct. 30, 2017 10:46 AM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — At the Tippecanoe County Historical Association amidst county court records and census forms there is a box many don't dare look into.
Inside the box is the skull of a man named David Stocking. His skull was cut in half to see if his brain, the brain of a true criminal, was any different than a sane person's.
David Stocking was a resident of Lafayette. He was one of three men to be hanged more than 160 years ago.
Only newspapers recount the tale of the bleak winter day of the Tippecanoe County Triple Execution.
People from across the county flocked to the snow-covered courthouse on the morning of Jan. 12, 1856. Many were on foot, some on horseback and wagon.
There was no festival in town — no holiday to celebrate, but rather, the morbid curiosity to witness a gruesome spectacle. Three men were to be hanged.
One of the men to be hanged was Stocking.
"Mr. Stocking had been convicted of a murder/arson," said Van Sherry, a volunteer researcher at TCHA. "He killed a man and then set fire to the building he was in."
The two other men to be executed alongside Stocking had murdered a farmer in the Wildcat Valley.
A platform was built on the northwest side of the old courthouse. The three prisoners, led by the sheriff, took their spot. Onlookers wrestled to get a view around the fence built to block the nasty sight
The men uttered their final words and at 22 minutes past 2 in the afternoon, the sheriff removed the bolt. The three men's souls launched into eternity as their necks snapped. None gave evidence of suffering.
Supposedly, the effects of the hangings can still be seen today.
"Rumor has it a couple of trees on the courthouse square were stunted because that was the corner where the scaffolding was built," said Sherry.
Two old trees on the northwest side of the courthouse, at Main and Third streets still stand.
But they've had some growing pains.
Some say it's because the souls of the three men still linger there. The very trees are evidence of the first and last hangings in Tippecanoe County.
The Tippecanoe County Historical Association is located at 1001 South St. in Lafayette. They're open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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Old Lafayette Courthouse